The first Samsung mobile phone to run Google's Android operating system, the Galaxy smartphone is a strong competitor to the HTC Magic and possesses a brilliant AMOLED display. Although the Galaxy is fast and functional, it's disappointing that Samsung hasn't tweaked the standard Android user interface.
The Samsung Galaxy doesn't support over-the-air firmware updates, nor does it have a digital compass (it does however include a regular compass). It's 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable and features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB connectivity via a standard micro-USB jack. Battery life is average for a smartphone possessing these features, with the Galaxy Icon managing to last a full day with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and hourly push e-mail activated.
Design & Usability
The Samsung Galaxy smartphone is a similar size to the HTC Magic. It is housed in a glossy black case that attracts plenty of fingerprints but looks slick. The Galaxy lacks the trackball of the Magic and instead uses a large five-way navigational pad. This isn’t a huge issue, as the finger-operated touch screen is used most of the time (though the navigational pad isn’t the most stylish option). The option, back, home and answer/end call keys are large and responsive but could have been smaller or even scrapped to accommodate a larger display. One annoyance is the lock screen key — it needs to be held down for far too long to unlock the handset.
The Samsung Galaxy boasts an AMOLED display. Using less power than traditional LCD screens yet offering vivid, bright colors and excellent viewing angles, the 3.2in display is a highlight of this smartphone. We did notice color shift when looking at it off-centre horizontally and vertically, though the screen is brighter, clearer and sharper than a regular LCD.
The screen is responsive, but the Samsung Galaxy doesn't support multitouch. The lack of a physical keyboard may deter some, though the standard Android on-screen keyboard is responsive. However, the handset's auto-correction is far less effective than the iPhone 3GS' and the layout of the keys could use some work — they are a little too cramped.
Disappointingly, the Samsung Galaxy runs the standard Google Android platform with no major UI tweaks or additions. (Unlike the HTC Hero, which had almost every aspect of the interface upgraded) This is not necessarily all bad news, but it’s a little disappointing. It's also strange when you consider Samsung's TouchWIZ UI has been developed for multiple operating systems already, including Symbian (Samsung OmniaHD), Windows Mobile (Samsung Omnia) and the company's proprietary OS (Samsung Pixon12 and Samsung Jet).
This disappointment aside, the Samsung Galaxy is still an Android phone and that’s largely good news. The home screen is split into three pages and you can add any icon from the main menu to the screen simply by pressing and dragging it. The best part of the interface is the status bar: dragging it downwards reveals a full screen of your latest notifications. The notifications remain on-screen until you clear them. This drop-down screen is available wherever you see the status bar.
Predictably, the Galaxy integration with Google services is excellent. The phone will automatically synchronize your Google calendar, mail and contacts over the air. When you add a new contact or calendar event on your PC, it will automatically appear on your phone and vice versa. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one on the Galaxy Icon itself and easily import a contact list from Microsoft Outlook or even Apple's address book. Support for Microsoft Exchange is on offer, though this requires a download from the Android Market — Google's answer to Apple's App Store.
Unfortunately, if you don't use Gmail as your primary address, the regular mail client (a completely separate application from Gmail) is mediocre. There is no way to delete multiple e-mails, no way to mark all e-mails as read and you can't download or view attachments.
Google Maps is a standard app and we found the GPS quite quick to latch onto a signal. The Galaxy uses the standard Android Internet browser. The lack of multitouch means you'll need to tap the icons on the screen to zoom in and out and there is no Flash support, but pages load fast and display on the screen with few issues.
As a multimedia device, the Samsung Galaxy fares much better than the HTC Magic thanks to the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack. It can record and play videos and has A2DP Bluetooth for wireless music streaming. The phone's 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash is better than the Magic's. It takes reasonable photos for a camera phone, with good color and detail, though image noise is an issue. The Samsung Galaxy Icon has 8GB of internal storage as well as a microSD card slot — annoyingly located behind the rear battery cover.
The Samsung Galaxy is priced at Rs. 24,300. The price might be high (especially when you take the standard looks and UI into consideration) but the fact remains that the Galaxy is highly usable and has excellent online features. The Galaxy ensures that Samsung’s first dalliance with the Android platform is a sparkling affair.